Saturday, June 15, 2013

What is so hard to believe about Shakespeare's authorship?

I read a very interesting article recently from The Times by Jack Malvern about two academics who had co-authored a book called Shakespeare Beyond Doubt. They were just absolutely fed up with all the various theories that had been posited in recent years about how all of Shakespeare's plays had really been written by various noblemen or other playwrights such as Edward de Vere, Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe.

I must admit I had a great deal of sympathy for them. Why is it so difficult to believe one talented man wrote so many good plays? Because scant knowledge about him was left after his death? We know something about him. He was an actor who became a principal member of an acting troupe and essentially was writing material for his own company to perform. When you think that theatre was the main entertainment for the wide spectrum of London's citizens at this period in time, it was essential Shakespeare kept churning out new plays. It was his livelihood and, no doubt, he needed to feed the audience's demands.

I remember when, several years ago, I had a number of humorous sketches that I'd written broadcast on a national children's television show. The producer seemed to like my work and I'll never forget what she said. She said she hoped I'd continue producing them in big numbers because, in her words, "writing for TV is a sausage factory, you have to keep churning the material out". As so often happens to me when I get some writing break or "in" with a producer or editor, life gets in my way and other demands drag me away. I was doing a lot of theatre and some teaching at the time and I was just trying to keep my head above water financially. The scripts paid OK, but they were two-minute maximum running time so you couldn't make serious money.

In the way that I discovered about the "sausage factory" of TV writing, no doubt Shakespeare also had to "feed the machine" of audience demand for fresh material. So the guy worked hard and just because he'd left school in probably about his early teens, they figure he must be some dumb hick fronting for an upper-class educated nobleman.

I say "phooey to that!" Plenty of people from humble backgrounds, the self-taught and intelligent and ambitious, have had writing or other artistic talent.

Also, as is often written about, the modern concept of originality and plagiarism didn't really feature in the Elizabethan mindset. He read accounts and he plucked what he needed like a magpie plucking jewels from windowsills. They say how come he set so many plays outside England, particularly Italy, when he never left the shores of England? Research, people. Besides, in the texts of the plays there is often no detailed descriptions of locales that would require specialist knowledge.

So I say, stop looking and making absurd movies like Anonymous. William Shakespeare's greatest writing strength was his almost prescient knowledge of the human psyche. He could take mud and fashion it into diamonds with his rich use of language and fashion characters that live on today because they are so real and "human" with their flaws and their noble qualities and their sometimes tragic or comic trajectories through life.

I'm on Shakey's team all the way!!!

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